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Regul Toxicol Pharmacol. 2009 Apr;53(3):161-3. doi: 10.1016/j.yrtph.2009.01.008. Epub 2009 Jan 29.

Transparency throughout the production chain--a way to reduce pollution from the manufacturing of pharmaceuticals?

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Department of Neuroscience and Physiology, The Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg, Box 434, SE-405 30 Göteborg, Sweden.


Recent findings have shown that wastewater from bulk drug production can be a source of very high environmental concentrations of drugs in certain locations. The release of active ingredients is often not specifically regulated, and thus rapid initiatives from the industries themselves are warranted. Possible ways to stimulate action include changes in local and international regulations, including the implementation of appropriate environmental standards within existing industry guidelines as well as demands from prescribers and consumers of medicines. The lack of readily available information regarding the origin of drugs and the environmental impact of the production, however, prevents consumers from making informed decisions. Here, we investigated the origin of active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) in 242 selected products on the Swedish market. By comparing registers from Sweden and India we found that the APIs in 71 products (31%) originated from Indian manufacturers sending their waste to a treatment plant where unprecedented amount of environmental pollution with broad-spectrum antibiotics and other drugs recently has been documented. We propose that increased transparency throughout the production chain would be one of several important steps to reducing pollution from the manufacturing of drugs.

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